My son has a best friend. She has been in his life since he was just five months old. She is with him every night at bedtime, she wakes him up every morning, she has traveled hundreds of miles in the air with him across the country, and she has been his cuddle buddy in Disney World. She’s comforted him during the arrival of his first tooth, she’s soothed him during his first fever, and she’s gotten more squeezes than I can count. Standing just over a foot tall, her name is Ellie, and she’s my son’s favorite stuffed animal.
Ellie came into Gabe’s life as a gift from my husband’s Aunt Pat, while on a trip to California for a family wedding. At five months old, there’s probably not a lot of gifts you’re going to give a baby that are going to connect so deeply. Other children in the family were given necklaces, or bracelets. But for Gabe, the simple gift of a little blue elephant, a tiny gift for a tiny boy. That night, we put Ellie into the Pack and Play with Gabe, who had never slept with a stuffed animal before. Whether it was the deep blue of her fur, or its soft fuzzy texture, the reaction was immediate. He held onto Ellie’s arm, laying alongside of her, until he fell asleep.
I know that most children have a favorite stuffed animal as a kid. I still have mine, stored in the hanging stuffed animal basket in Gabe’s nursery. He is old and ragged, stitched and sewn in places, missing an eye, and still mine. But with more than 30 years separating me from my stuffed animal, I have found myself watching in awe as my son’s relationship with his own fuzzy friend has grown.
They are bedtime peas in a pod now. Wherever Gabe travels during the night, and boy is he an active sleeper, Ellie goes with him, a tiny hand that grows bigger every day, but wraps tightly around a foot, an ear, or trunk every night. And he doesn’t let go until morning.
We are starting to notice signs of Ellie’s devotion to our son. Her fur is matted in some places, her arms have lost a bit of their structure. And we have discussed, however traitorously, subtly and slyly swapping her for a newer model. Amazon makes it easy. But we just can’t do it.
Ellie’s fur is matted because she has been kissed. And her arms are floppy because they have been hugged. She has been a faithful and loyal companion to our most important boy, and to set her aside for a sparklier version is something that we cannot do.
Ellie wears her love. She is a testament to the ways that love grows with time, affection which we hope to contain with seams but hopefully cannot. Her wear is a reflection of all that she has been given, and those are scars worth bearing.
Any family can buy one of these elephants, and create their own story for it. But for Gabe, there will be no one else quite like Ellie, the sharer of goodnight hugs, morning kisses, and naptime cuddles. And for him, and for her, these two Dads are beyond grateful.